Tag Archives: paul clayton

Carl Melcher Goes to Vietnam by Paul Clayton

Carl Melcher Goes to Vietnam by Paul Clayton: I would summarize this book but the title does that job for me. It is the story of Carl Melcher, a recent high school graduate in the 1970s who gets drafted and sent to Vietnam. He makes some tenuous friendships, sort of falls in love, and seems at least vaguely affected by the war. This book would have been greatly improved had it been in a journal format, giving Clayton an excuse for being so trapped within Carl’s voice that things get lost. I often did not know how much time had passed between chapters, lost track of who was who, and missed what was going on because I did not understand the appropriate lingo. A diary format would have forgiven most of these problems as well as cleared up the time-jump confusion. If it was Clayton’s intent to paint a picture of pointlessness and bungling in the Vietnam War, he did a good job. But if he hoped to produce a thought-provoking critique of the war, a cast of sympathetic characters, or a moving tragedy, he did not accomplish his goals. Carl’s experiences in Vietnam were neither extraordinary nor detailed, and his limited use of adjectives (he felt only “scared,” “sad,” “happy,” or “angry” at any given moment) further distanced me from the story. In summary: this was not a bad book…just very forgettable.

Originally posted on Bookcrossing.

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